Categories
Technology

EditGrid betas Excel plugin

From a reader comes news that EditGrid has launched a private beta for an Excel plugin for offline work on spreadsheets. Pretty cool, as Mashable explains:

As there are several levels of integration, the whole of the integration is rather seamless — it takes no time to load sheets from EditGrid to Excel, and you can work offline if need be and update at a later time.

EditGrid made the announcement on their official blog:

When people think of compatibility across spreadsheet applications, people tend to think of fidelity — whether the spreadsheet file exported from one application can be imported into another application without loss of quality or detail. While EditGrid has been doing pretty well in this arena, we are not satisfied with this — exporting spreadsheet data from EditGrid into a file means that the data have become “offline”. It means that the user loses something — the ability to get real-time updated data and collaborate with each other online — that the user is entitled to on EditGrid.

It’s a huge step on the way to mainstream usage in industry. I didn’t see this coming, but now that I’m aware of it, it seems like such an obvious extension to the previously strictly online app.

Sign up for the private beta and give the future of spreadsheets a whirl.

Categories
Web

EditGrid User Survey response

EditGrid, the online spreadsheet app that mimics Excel in format and functionality, sent me a survey a week ago through email. The survey sought my thoughts on the following questions:

  1. Use Cases: What are you using EditGrid for?
  2. Features: What new features do you desire the most?
  3. Usability: How can we present our features better to you and help you work more efficiently? We welcome your suggestions, from small refinements to major improvements.

I wanted to keep my answers concise, since I figured they were going to get a lot of responses. I wrote back:

  1. I’m testing out EditGrid with personal spreadsheets and blogging about it (neilmcintyre.ca)
  2. Just make it more responsive and more like Excel
  3. Present the features as in Excel – I guess this entails copying their new format (Office 2007)

Responsiveness would be at the top of the list, as I found it to be lagging a bit compared to Google Spreadsheets. Some specific features I use in Excel (reflexively) are still missing and I do miss them when I notice, but it’s the lag that kills the experience.

Reading over my response now, a few days later, I’m wondering whether point #3 is really all that helpful. Office 2007 doesn’t have that ubiquity just yet that 2003 enjoys, and the difference in interface is shocking. Copying the ribbon at this point may not be the best plan.

That being said, they’re on the right track.

Sending out a survey to existing customers is a great way to solicit feedback. Smart, proactive accounting firms are probably already doing this with their client base, and using the comments and suggestions to adjust their service offerings accordingly.

Categories
Taxation

How to pick an accountant for your online business

Choosing an accountant for your business is always a delicate endeavour. It’s incredibly important for your accountant to understand your business thoroughly, inside and out, backwards and forward. So, for some non-traditional businesses (i.e. professional blogger), this can be tricky to say the least.

A post titled How to pick an accountant for your online business appeared recently in a blog called Fortuitous, which is written by one of the co-founders of MetaFilter, Matt Haughey. I thought the post had some great advice for web workers and bloggers in particular, but some additional insight could be provided from an accountant’s point of view.

I feel finances are important enough to warrant bringing in outside professional help. If you’re a geek, the temptation is to think “this is math — I know numbers!” but what you might be ignoring is the additional tax of having to learn an extremely complicated system. Leave it to the pros so you can focus on the thing you do uniquely well. […] A good accountant recognizes all the costs of running an online business, offers tips for good investments (that in turn, reduce taxes), and offers advice on how best to grow your business.

If you run a business as a sole proprietor or through a corporation, it will definitely save you money and hassle to hire an accountant to take care of the tax side of things. The article focuses on taxes, but your professional accountant will provide advice on areas other than tax, such as market strategy, operations management, financing options and retirement saving (which admittedly has a tax component to it).

The rules governing taxes on business are geared towards the traditional, capital-intensive types of businesses… If you don’t have to buy parts, pay a large staff, or purchase trucks to move products around, you don’t have a lot of options when it comes to built-in deductions against your revenue.

Built-in deductions are the typical ones certainly, and don’t on first glance seem to apply to a web worker. But logically any expenditure incurred to earn business income is deductible. As long as it can be reasonably proven to have a business purpose, deduct. I would argue an online business would have as many deductions if not more than a traditional one, especially if you work from home, where a portion of any expenses of the home are an expense of the business.

What I found after using several local accountants was that they just didn’t understand how the internet worked. They would ask me about equipment (minimal — just a laptop), how much I drove (none, I do it all online from my home office), and how many employees I had (zero, though I’ve paid programmers and moderators as contractors for the past couple years).

Your accountant is always going to ask you about the typical deductions, because that’s a good starting point to the discussion. They should start to give you an idea of the types of things that are allowed. In the case of an online business, equipment would be any peripherals for the laptop, the desk you worked at, the chair you sat in, and the whiteboard you brainstormed on. You can renovate a home office and deduct the cost. Plus, what was spent on contractors is clearly a deduction. Any driving done which is reasonably for the purpose of earning income – to a potential clients, for example – is deductible.

In the end, the big city accountant asked me the right questions and figured out a couple deductions I didn’t know I qualified for, and saved me $1500 below what TurboTax came up with. I probably could have gotten my TurboTax return to match but I probably mis-read one of the hundreds of questions lobbed at me during the online process. The local accountant I wasn’t a fan of turned out to be the worst option, coming up $1200 over my own TurboTax return. I suspect she left off a few business expenses I listed.

That’s a huge difference between the accountants. It would be interesting to know whether it was the local one’s conservative nature that contributed to the difference or something else. Regardless, it’s important to always examine your tax return even if it is prepared by a professional, and get explanations for anything you don’t understand or think is missing.

I’m glad someone wrote a post like this, as it seems the group of people earning their primary incomes from blogging is increasing, and we accountant bloggers frequently lament the dearth of accountants who “get” this sort of thing.

As a disclaimer to the above though, I should remind readers I’m a Canadian CA student, not too familiar with tax systems other than Canada’s and not a tax specialist.

Categories
Web

The Web is no longer linking information: it’s linking people

(Via AccMan.)

Categories
Web

Sell your services over the phone using Ether

A week ago I was trading blog posts with David Rachford about accountants marketing their professional services using MySpace. The discussion had resulted in both of us signing up with the mega-popular site in an effort to understand the potential opportunities.

Results are still out on that avenue, but out of the Web 2.0 ether, comes Ether. How it works, according to them, emphasis mine:

We all have something valuable to say. Whether you’re an accountant, a computer expert, a blogger, or a good gossiper, you can earn money selling what you say to others over the phone or through email.

Sounds like an interesting use for the new web. The step-by-step details:

  1. You sign up on the site and set up an Ether phone number.
  2. You set a price for your services, either per the hour or the minute.
  3. You decide when you want to take calls.
  4. Then you market your Ether phone number and people give you a call when they want to pay you for your knowledge.

Sounds pretty cool actually, and although I can’t see myself building a career out of something like this, I could see someone with some basic accounting knowledge (a bookkeeper, perhaps) selling it to those who need the information.

What do you think?